LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Police say an LMPD officer was stuck by a needle while searching a suspect and exposed to Hepatitis C. 

It happened on Aug. 2 when fast food employees along Dixie Highway contacted police about 26-year-old James Smith. When an officer arrived, he found Smith at the KFC. 

An arrest warrant says Smith was intoxicated, unsteady on his feet and incoherent and as the officer searched Smith, he was stuck with a needle. Police say Smith was taken to the hospital and tested positive for Hepatitis C.

"A needle stick is a high risk exposure because it can take that viral particle and stick it deep under the skin," said Dr. Bill Smock, LMPD police surgeon.  

Smock says as heroin use rises, more people have syringes on them. 

According to the police department, 13 officers were stuck by needles in 2013. Eight officers were stuck by needles the next year. So far this year, nine officers have been stuck by needles. It's led to a new protocol within the department giving officers access to a drug that prevents HIV. 

"We will have medication pre-staged in each of the divisions around the county so that if an officer on Dixie Highway has a needle stick and exposure they can be administered the medication hopefully within 10 to 15 minutes of the exposure," Smock told WDRB News. 

There is no preventative drug for Hepatitis C but there is treatment, according to Smock. He says the officer will now have to undergo months of testing as doctors monitor whether he contracts the virus. 

"This is a very traumatic event, not only for the officer, but for their family," Smock said. 

Police say the officer in this case asked Smith if he had anything on him that could stick him. According to an arrest warrant, Smith denied having anything.  He's been charged with wanton endangerment and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

Dr. Smock says to date, no LMPD officers have contracted HIV or Hepatitis C through exposure at work. 

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